LESSONS I LEARNT FROM THE DEATH OF A FRIEND.

Two weeks ago, very early on Sunday morning, I woke up to the tragic news of the passing of my friend and brother in Christ, Gerald Seruwagi. He was also one of the co-founders of our ministry. Gerald, I was told, had collapsed on the bathroom floor the night before and upon reaching hospital he was pronounced dead. He was only 47 years; and he left behind a wife and four young kids, the oldest being 10 and the youngest being only 4. 

As if that is not enough, last week another great man, a friend, a mentor and a partner in ministry, Dr. Bill Thomas also died of prostate cancer. Dr. Bill Thomas was 76 years old and lived in France.
These two events got me thinking seriously about life and about my service for the Lord.  Gerald was younger than I, he was not sick, he had a young family and he had just finished his doctorate. In my eyes, he seemed so ready to take on the task that God had for him, and yet, just like that, the Lord decided to take him home. On the other hand, Dr. Bill Thomas had been weak for a couple years. Even then, he had preached the Gospel in over 40 countries and was a man endowed with wisdom that we all desired to sit under his feet and learn from him.
Through the death of these two servants of God, I have come to learn a few lessons and I welcome you to think through them with me.

1.      GOD IS SOVEREIGN
As Christians, we are always confronted with the knowledge of a loving God, a God who answers prayers when we pray and a God who has promised us a long life.  That is why when a loved one dies we ask ourselves why that same God has allowed this to happen. We ask, “What about the scriptures like, “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Ps. 91: 16)?” We wonder why a young man had to work hard, go to school, prepare himself and yet when he was just beginning to accomplish his dreams God decided to take him away! Is that fair?

I have found out that God will act in His own way and sometimes we cannot understand what He is doing but He still remains God.

The best explanation that God has given me is that he is God and He can do what he wants. He has promised to take care of his own and he will do it. I know that he will even take care of my friend’s kids better than my friend would have done. He is God.
He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9).

2.      WE NEED TO BE ABOUT THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

In his greatness and foreknowledge the Lord has hidden our life timetable from us. We do not know how long or how short we shall live. We do not know much about the future; but we know that the future put in God’s hand can be very exciting and rewarding.  Someone once said that it is not the years we live but what we do with the years God gives us that count. In other words, what matters is not the quantity of years but the quality of those years. It is not how many things we accumulate but the impact we live on the earth. God may give us, 30, 50, 70 or even 90 years but the bottom line is, “What have I done with those years?”

The last time Dr. Bill visited me in Uganda was in March. He was very weak. We had to seat him on a chair as he preached and taught our people. I spent those two weeks with him going late into the night asking him questions about ministry and life. Even my young people also gathered around him asking questions. Before me was a man who had lived a life for his God, a man who had touched thousands with the Gospel, a man who had spent a very profitable life for God. He was not rich in property but he was rich in impact.
At Gerald’s funeral, I saw a number of young men and women that Gerald had made disciples. This showed me what it means to study God’s word and to live for God.  For his last mission field, Gerald lived in Rwanda for a year and 5 months helping Africa New-Life Ministries to set up a Bible College. During that time the Lord used him to put in place a school that will train Christian leaders in Rwanda. I believe there are some men and women who have been impacted by Gerald’s short time in Kigali. What matters is not how long you live but how well you live.

3.      BUILD INTO THE FUTURE.

Whenever I think about life these days, I think about investment. We always think about investing for the future. In Uganda, we think about building a house. We think about having land in the village where we come from. We think about building rental properties such that when we are old, we will be able to draw some income from them. For professional workers, we are always looking at a pension at the end of our employment or when we retire; we are somehow making sure our employers are putting money into the Social Security Fund. This is wise and good; especially because we do not know how our health will be in the future neither do we know when God will decide to call us home.

There is, however, another kind of investment. It is the notion of investing in the kingdom of God. It is the idea of investing in things greater than houses, lands and banks.   

In Luke 12: 32-34, Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In this text, Jesus talks about Kingdom investment, that is, investing in the things that expand the kingdom of God. 

There are three kinds of resources God has given us: TIME, TALENT and TREASURE. We have been given time by God, we have been given talents (abilities, skills, spiritual gifts, experiences) and we have been given treasures (resources like: money and properties). Whenever we use those three for God’s service we are investing in the kingdom and that investment will outlast us.

The best way to invest is in God’s people, and as we do so, we are multiplying ourselves and going beyond ourselves. We invest in people when we lead them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We invest in people when we help them discover their gifts and talents. We invest in people when we help them overcome their past and help them to discover their destiny.

When I look back through my life, the greatest people in my life are those that got hold of my hand and said, “Peter, God has a great plan for your life.” They are the people who showed me how to live a responsible life. They are the people who helped me discover my gifts and talents. They are the people that connected me to other people and other opportunities.

Not long ago, a young man was talking to a friend of mine and said the thing that changed his life is when, I talked to him and said, “How are you my friend.” This young man had grown up with a father who was never really there, an absentee father; and so, to get a man calling him “friend” changed his life. The question I have for you today is: “Do you have a person in your life today in whom you are investing?”

Many of us have been blessed to have skills that have actually given us opportunities, social status and positions of significance. Have you ever used your skills and gifts to bless your church? Do you know that God can use these skills to build and expand the church?

What about your treasures? Every one of us knows that when we die, we shall go with nothing. Even the few things we have toiled for may not be well used by our kids.  How have you invested your money and properties in the kingdom? Your money can help expand the Gospel to many parts of the world. Your money can help plant churches. Your money can help get a small orphaned kid to school. How are you using what God has given you to bless others and to impact His Kingdom?

Take it or leave it, what really matters in this life is what we do for God.

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